By: Jennifer P. Rendon
ABANG Lingkod Party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano sees no problem with having two electric utility providers in one service area.
Paduano made this statement after the House committee on legislative franchises junked PECO’s (Panay Electric Company) bid to secure a new franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.
On Aug 22, 2019, Paduano filed House Bill No. 4101, which sought to grant a 25-year franchise to PECO, despite the earlier passage of Republic Act No. 11212, which granted More Electric and Power Corp. (More Power) the same privilege.
“I don’t see anything wrong with having PECO and MORE distribute power. It will be favorable to the consumers of Iloilo City,” Paduano said.
Even PECO was also amenable to it, he added.
In the 17th Congress (2016 to 2019), Paduano said he was one of the late co-authors of the bill that sought to renew PECO’s franchise.
He co-authored the bill because the lawyer of PECO then, Inocencio Ferrer, happened to be his uncle.
“Unfortunately, wala gid naka-touch base. Not a single hearing happened,” he said.
When MORE Power applied for the franchise, he asked about the company’s distribution assets.
“What if, to the MORE applicants, PECO will not allow you to buy PECO equipment or assets? I told them we will approve your franchise but what will happen to the people of Iloilo? Wala sila suga?” he said.
Paduano said he also asked the specific provisions on the expropriation of PECO’s assets by More Power in the committee level and even in the plenary.
“But of course, we lost. We don’t have the numbers,” he said.
Sometime in July or August, Paduano said that PECO executives and their legal counsel, minus his uncle Atty. Inocencio, again visited his office.
“I just talked to them once after they visited my office. They explained to me about their renewal,” he said.
PECO DESERVES RENEWAL
Paduano said he decided to file the PECO bill, even without the suggestion of Ferrer, because “I believe PECO deserves the renewal of the franchise because they operated for the past 95 years and even until now, they are still serving the people.”
Paduano said he also saw the need to defend PECO because “I just feel that I should defend local investors.”
MORE, on the other hand, is a firm controlled by billionaire Enrique Razon.
“I don’t question MORE because they have all the right to apply. It is allowed that under one service area, there would be two service providers. What I’m questioning is, the specific provision and the possible implication if ever MORE will be approved for their franchise and PECO will not sell their distribution assets,” he said.
But with his bill junked on the first reading, it looks like PECO will look for other avenues to keep their hopes alive.
“We have our rules. We can’t re-file the same bill in one year. Let’s see after one year,” he said.
Still, Paduano believes that local investors should be given a chance as it might prime the economy.
He said that he only asked PECO to reciprocate by giving good service.
“That’s my stand ever since. Even in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental,” he said.
It can be noted that PECO’s franchise expired on January 18, but the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has granted a provisional Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the company to continue their business to prevent disruption of power supply while More Power is trying to establish its distribution services.